McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Graduate's father donates art to midwifery program

Published: September 11, 2014

Mi'kmaq artist Lorne Julien has honoured his daughter, McMaster midwifery alumna Alisha Julien-Reid by donating one of his paintings to the Midwifery Education Program.

The art piece entitled New Life will be displayed in a high-traffic area of the midwifery office in the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery. The painting was unveiled at an event on Aug. 29 attended by Julien and Julien-Reid, along with her husband and daughter and officials of the midwifery school.

Julien-Reid grew up on reserve in Nova Scotia. She has been practicing midwifery in Hamilton for the past year and will begin work in Calgary this month. Her efforts in the program inspired the painting, said her father.

"It means a lot to me too, Alisha coming here, going through the program. That's a gift to me, her education, and I wanted to give something back just in gratitude," said Julien.

He explained that he uses a lot of bright vivid colours because he believes they lift people's spirits.

"A lot of times with first nation's peoples throughout North America, we have high respect for eagles because they fly the highest and we believe they also carry our prayers to the creator," added Julien, who signs his works as Warrior on the Hill, his native name given by elders.

Eileen Hutton, assistant dean of midwifery, said she is "thrilled" about the gift, adding that the painting is "going to have a very honourable place in our program and it's such a nice way for Alisha to always have a connection to the program."

Julien-Reid hopes the painting will help make First Nations midwifery students feel welcome and more comfortable. She said First Nations students often face unique barriers, describing one instance of hearing a native woman say that she arrived at a specialist's appointment for her teeth and felt a lot of anxiety, but upon looking up and seeing a First Nations art piece, her anxiety was reduced.

"My hope is that more First Nations students would come into the program and if there can be one piece that can make someone feel OK, that First Nations people are welcomed here and honoured here, it takes away a lot of anxiety," said Julien-Reid.  "Art can do a lot, and so if this piece can help I'd be so grateful."

Hutton said the painting really portrays "life and transitioning between pre-birth and post-birth and probably looks at some of the transition between cultures I think, using the traditional symbolism."  

She said the art donation is a fitting tribute to Julien-Reid.

"I think the program will give her a really excellent set of tools to go out into the world to be able to work with women in a way that will be very important both for her in terms of a profession, but also working in the native community because there is a real need for connectedness of birth with the community.  And it's something that's been removed in many communities, it's been taken away from the communities," said Hutton.

"With Alisha's skills and educational degree she will have a place with birthing anywhere across the country."

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